Book from the exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, London in 1998. Just a small showing - 5 triptychs and 18 canvases - with no heads, animals, or landsBook from the exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, London in 1998. Just a small showing - 5 triptychs and 18 canvases - with no heads, animals, or landscapes, so just a concentration on the human body. Sylvester's text, which takes up the first 30 or so pages and is interspersed with gray scale details from the color plates, is fairly gnomic, wandering and without thesis. Although he does make the occasional useful observation, such as when discussing why he'd like to see Warhol paintings alongside Bacon's, he suggests what they have in common is:
Things that show the transfiguration of photographic images by accidental or seemingly accidental defacements that denote nothing but suggest a great deal.
The 18 color plates of the canvases are mostly full page, and best of all, the five triptychs are reproduced as three-page foldouts, which is so much better than seeing them reduced on one or two pages....more
Been re-reading this one a lot lately because Bacon said so many intriguing things about appearance and non-representational art and working from theBeen re-reading this one a lot lately because Bacon said so many intriguing things about appearance and non-representational art and working from the "nervous system" to the medium. I love the visceral impact of his paintings and this series of interviews provides some insight. It's a bit choppy at times because - as Sylvester acknowledges in his introduction - the interviews were edited to combine topics that were discussed over many interviews in an attempt to aggregate Bacon's views on certain topics. Touches on the major themes in his paintings, for example, the popes, crucifixions, meat, mouths/screams, etc. Includes 146 illustrations, so the paintings are there side-barred to the text, even if in black and white....more
A former New York Times book of the year (for those who care about such accolades), and I'm all for books that focus on creative artists receiving sucA former New York Times book of the year (for those who care about such accolades), and I'm all for books that focus on creative artists receiving such recognition (if only for the hope of audience spill over). Yes, you'll find all the juicy details about Bacon's at times scandalous private life, all the more so given that Peppiatt was a close friend of Bacon's for thirty years and confided in him to an uncommon (or, perhaps, calculated) degree. But what really puts this book over the top for me is that Peppiatt (a former literary editor for le Monde and arts correspondent for The New York Times and the Financial Times, as well as editor and publisher of Art International) has considerable critical chops and puts them to use throughout this book to analyze Bacon's paintings and technique. Not just a biography, but a brilliant melding of biography and critical study....more
Picked this one up at the Art Institute bookstore in Chicago and it was well worth the $50. Extra thick paper makes it tactile and full of heft, as aPicked this one up at the Art Institute bookstore in Chicago and it was well worth the $50. Extra thick paper makes it tactile and full of heft, as a good art book should. Written to accompany the exhibits -- Francis Bacon: Painting from the the 1950's --the book includes 55 color plates of the paintings from the exhibit, plus 30 or so others in the essay written by Bacon's friend and biographer Michael Peppiatt (I've also read the biography Anatomy of an Enigma and will post a review of that one, too). The essay is a mini-biography, focusing on the 50's, as Peppiatt believes that all of Bacon's paintings are autobiographical. Not much new if you've read the full biography, but a great complement to the paintings if you haven't. Also includes previously unpublished letters Bacon wrote to the Hanover gallery and one of his patrons, plus a full chronology, as well as an excellent multimedia bibliography....more
Not the medieval philosopher but the 20th century painter (I was reading this book on an airplane and the person sitting next to me said: “Wasn’t he SNot the medieval philosopher but the 20th century painter (I was reading this book on an airplane and the person sitting next to me said: “Wasn’t he Shakespeare?” The beautiful full color plates of Bacon’s paintings came in handy to end that conversation.) And that anecdote is a perfect lead-in to Alphen’s approach to analyzing Bacon’s art: he explores how it affects its viewers. He also makes a strong case for Bacon’s postmodernity with his primary theme of loss of self. I found his discussion of the way Bacon inverted the mirror and the lamp theme fascinating. Also fascinating was the theme of the deforming of bodies as emblems of the dissolving self. Great analysis here. And lots of great pictures, most in color, of Bacon’s paintings....more
Another one in the writers should read aesthetics category, for example, here's one of Deleuze's passages on painting that transfers nicely to writingAnother one in the writers should read aesthetics category, for example, here's one of Deleuze's passages on painting that transfers nicely to writing:
"It is a mistake to think that the painter works on a white surface. The figurative belief follows from this mistake. If the painter were before a white surface, he could reproduce on it an external object functioning as a model, but such is not the case. The painter has many things in his head, or around him, or in his studio. Now everything he has in his head or around him is already on the canvas, more or less virtually, more or less actually, before he begins his work.They are all present in the canvas as so many images, actual or virtual, so that the painter does not have to cover a blank surface but rather would have to empty it out, clear it, clean it. He does not paint in order to reproduce on the canvas an object functioning as a model; he paints images that are already there, in order to produce a canvas whose functioning will reverse relations between model and copy. In short, what we have to define are all these "givens" that are on the canvas before the painters work begins, and determine among these givens, which are obstacles, which are helps, or even the effects of a preparatory work." (71)
So, what's already on your blank page when you sit down to write?
Yes, this book is about Francis Bacon's paintings, and the original French version was a two volume set with the second volume consisting of plates of Bacon's paintings. So for the studying Bacon aspect of reading this book, it really is necessary to have a book with the color plates handy as this volume has none. This book is not exclusively about Bacon's paintings, however; as the quote above reveals, Deleuze is more broadly concerned with art, aesthetics, and philosophy. Whether he's discussing Bacon or the blank page, the logic of sensation or the history of western painting, Deleuze is thought provoking as he, using Bacon as a vehicle, delves into the convergence of art and philosophy that occurred in the twentieth century....more
Two best things about this book are its pocketbook size and the six gatefolds. The gatefolds are great because you can see the triptychs spread out inTwo best things about this book are its pocketbook size and the six gatefolds. The gatefolds are great because you can see the triptychs spread out instead of crammed all on one page. The pages are glossy and the color reproductions are rich. The accompanying text is mostly biographical. Not the strongest book if you're looking for critical analysis. The pocketbook size makes it good for travel; all the color prints without the heft of a coffee-table book....more